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Woods Expansion…
An Open Letter to Our Community

As you may know, Friends of Woods Tennis (FOWT) has put forth a proposal to expand the current tennis center with the addition of 4 new indoor courts and 3 additional outdoor courts, along with much-needed classroom, training, and administrative space. Our proposal, including a preliminary/conceptual design (click here) has been sent to the Lincoln Parks & Recreation Board for their consideration and approval. 

In the interest of transparency, there are certain groups within the surrounding neighborhoods that are opposed to the expansion, citing concern for losing “green space” within Woods Park & Sports Complex. While we respect their opinions, there have been several falsehoods and misrepresentations of our proposal as part of their opposition. 

We want to provide you with the facts, along with several avenues you can take to help support our mission of “Taking the Game to The Community.”

Why Expand?

Put simply, we have significantly more demand for courts than we have availability at Woods Tennis Center. 

  • Woods Tennis Center supports more than 12,000 area tennis players each year, from age 3-93, from beginners to national champions.

  • Our tennis programming includes youth, adults, wheelchair, adaptive, high school & collegiate tournaments, United State Tennis Association (USTA) leagues and tournaments, as well as Missouri Valley tournaments. Woods Tennis Center is widely recognized as the “crown jewel” of tennis in Nebraska.

  • We have over 2,000 junior players in the program. Our current session of youth programming has more than 520 participants—with a waitlist of another 120 junior players who cannot play due to capacity. 

  • There is currently a waitlist of over 200+ players wanting individual lessons/instruction. The wait is over a year to receive those lessons.

  • Each month there are 150-200 court requests that cannot be fulfilled.

  • In 2023, we reached indoor capacity 322 of 365 days. Outdoor capacity reached 126 days. Both numbers FAR EXCEED national industry averages.  

  • We are missing critical opportunities for our local players to participate in more regional and national tournaments without the need or expense of travel. 

To summarize, we have an opportunity to bring all the benefits that Woods Tennis Center provides to more of our community and surrounding area…allowing us to further deliver on our mission of “Taking the Game to The Community."

 

Why Not Somewhere Else?

Our opposition suggests building another tennis facility in a different part of the city. Why not do that?

  • Woods Tennis Center is in Woods Park & Sports Complex, which is officially designated as a “community park” rather than just a “neighborhood park.” This is an important distinction. 

  • Woods Tennis Center is centrally located within Lincoln, affording easy access for all.

  • Woods Tennis Center serves a highly diverse audience, including many players who could simply not afford to travel and play elsewhere. We have provided more than $225,000 in scholarships since 2009, as well as more than 4,000 free racquets to first time players and those who could not afford their own.

  • There has been a significant investment in the current location. Adding a second location would double the cost of land acquisition, infrastructure, staffing, insurance, utilities, etc. As a self-sustaining non-profit, building and maintaining a second location is not economically feasible.

  • Our current proposal adds the needed indoor and outdoor courts while taking less than 1.5 acres of the current 49 acres of Woods Park. Our proposed expansion would re-orient courts and parking to the South (see attached) while preserving the larger open spaces of the park to the North. Our expansion will not impact any of the many activities currently enjoyed at Woods Park. If approved, we will have a robust plan for water management, landscaping, replacement of trees and other park improvements. 

 

Some Other Important Facts

  • Woods Tennis Center is open to all. We are NOT a private club. We do NOT require memberships. Like the Lincoln Children’s Zoo or The Children’s Museum, our patrons use our facilities for a set fee (or through scholarships). These fees help us to remain self sustainable.

  • Mayo Clinic research shows that people who play tennis live an average of 10 years longer than those who don’t. Other health data indicates strong positive effects on character development, decreased risky behaviors, better academic outcomes, and increased volunteer rates within the community. The more people we can accommodate, the better for everyone!

  • The Woods Park Master Plan already allowed/approved the construction of 4 new indoor courts as part of Phase II. This was approved by the Lincoln City Council in 2016. We are wanting to complete that phase along with the addition of 3 outdoor courts, to meet current demand. (Note: All our outdoor courts are constructed of asphalt and have outlived their useful life. Current industry standards call for outdoor courts to be “post-tension.” Our expansion plan will bring all courts up to accepted standards.)

  • If approved, the expansion of Woods Tennis Center will be funded by private donors and will not adversely affect the taxes of Lincoln-area residents. As a self-sustaining non-profit, we actually contribute dollars to the Lincoln Parks and Recreation budget.

How Can You Help?

Simply put, we need your voice!  

As part of the process the city of Lincoln is holding a series of “Community Meetings” where interested parties can speak to their support or opposition of the plan. In addition, there will be a community-wide online survey to also lend your opinion. We NEED and URGE your participation in both.

 

Community Meetings will be held at the following times:

  1. Saturday March 2nd | 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

  2. Monday March 4th | 5:30 p.m. — 7:30 p.m.

  3. Tuesday March 5th | 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Meetings will be held in the lower level of Woods Park Place (3131 ‘O’ Street).

Each participant will be given 3 minutes to lend their support or opposition of the proposed expansion. Please plan to attend one of the meetings and sign up to give your opinion. It’s IMPORTANT!

Lincoln Parks & Rec is conducting a citywide online survey to gain public opinion on the future use of Woods Park and Woods Tennis Center. We are urging everyone to submit their views via the survey by the deadline of March 17th. (Note: Woods Tennis Center is considered part of Woods Park. If you have visited Woods Tennis Center, you are considered to have visited Woods Park). Please complete the survey with your views and share the link with your friends and family. It’s important that EVERYONE has the opportunity for their voice to be heard.


Finally, you can help by writing a letter or sending an email of support to members of the Parks & Recreation Board, members of the Lincoln City Council and Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird. The letter template (here) can be used as well by simply adding the addressee and your name/address. Addresses for each are below:

We can’t stress enough the importance of the Woods Tennis community to stand up and be heard. Please join us in support of furthering our mission of “Taking the Game to The Community.”

 

Thank you for taking the time and for your continued support. 

 

Friends of Woods Tennis Board of Directors

 

Questions? Please reach out to a board member: growwoodstennis@gmail.com
 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

1. What are Friends of Woods Tennis (FOWT)’s long-term plans for the future development of the tennis complex – beyond the most recent proposal? 

  • FOWT has no plans for further development. 

2. Do you have data on all tennis court use – indoor and outdoor? 

  • Demand for court time exceeds our court availability. WTC operates year-round with six indoor and twelve outdoor courts. We open at 8:00 AM and close at 10:00 PM. During winter months, WTC indoor courts have an extremely high usage rate of 84% capacity, compared to the industry average of 41.5%. Tennis programming during the school year continues to draw more applications than we can accept, leaving us with a continually growing waiting list because of a lack of enough indoor courts.

  • Demands for court time come from many sources — recreational players, all the high school teams in Lincoln and some surrounding areas (i.e., Norris and Waverly), summer lessons for kids, and regional tournaments.

  • Additional data/percentages can be found in our response to Question #8 below as well as in our proposal. 

3. How many members do you have? How many live in the same zip code as Woods Tennis Center? 

  • As a public facility, all are welcome here. We do not track zip codes at Woods Tennis Center. We have patrons from all across Lincoln and the state. Over 12,000* players seek tennis for mental and physical health benefits at WTC.

  • 6,800 league and lesson participants for youth and adults.

  • 5,200+ participants from schools and tournaments hosted onsite (players, spectators, and coaches).
    *These numbers do not include our community outreach, adaptive, and wheelchair programs (another ~2,000 players).

4. How many tournaments do you hold a year? How do you determine the financial impact these tournaments bring to Lincoln?

  • In 2023, Wood Tennis Center will have hosted: 

    • 23 USTA tournaments

    • 50 Woods Club Jr Team tennis and in house tournaments

    • 46 high school and + college tournaments

    • 72 school duals

    • 146 school practices

    • 1 pickleball tournament

  • Regarding financial impact from these tournaments to Lincoln, we do not host events specifically based on financial impact. We host events to provide play opportunities for players of all ages and abilities. 

  • Our internal goal is to cover costs. If additional positive financial impact is made in the city, all the better. 

5. In 2004, Woods Tennis told neighbors they needed 18 total courts. During a 2015 promotional piece, Kevin said that the 2016 plan would meet Woods Tennis Center’s needs for 50 years. You are now proposing an additional expansion of courts. How do you expect the community to trust your vision when it keeps changing?

  • Your premise is inaccurate. That 2016 plan was eventually split into 2 phases by the city. What was completed was Phase I. 

  • What we are working on now is Phase II, with the only change from 2016 being a net of 3 additional outdoor courts to accommodate growth. 

  • FOWT has no plans for further development. 

6. How many courts did you tell the NSAA you would provide for Class A and Class B State play?

  • All courts, indoor and outdoor. 

7. What is the arrangement between LPS and FOWT, concerning court usage?

  • A contract was entered into between LPS and Friends of Woods Tennis. Since 2017, the latest agreement can be found in the amended Operating Agreement December 3rd, 2018. 

8. What percentage of the courts are used each day from 8-5 and 5-close during the week? What percentage of the courts are used on the weekends 8-5 and 5-close? Please show indoor and outdoor numbers separately. 

  • Percentages from January 1st, 2023 to December 31st, 2023: 

***This Phase will not impede or take away any current park use opportunities.***

9. Other sports groups have used Woods Park over the years. When their group outgrew Woods Park, they purchase land and moved. Have you considered relocating to a more appropriate space for your plans? 

  • No. The second phase will address all lesson programming and event needs at this time. This plan has been in place, with the obvious addition of three outdoor courts, since 2010. 

  • From a community standpoint, this site has a proven track record of positive results allowing people from all backgrounds the opportunity to play the lifetime sport. We are concerned moving to the edge of town will significantly limit our ability to positively impact all especially when the Community Health Endowment data maps highlight/emphasize an immediate need right here. 

  • If we were a for-profit, being profit-focused, the easy answer is the edge of town. However, as a nonprofit, with our mission of “taking the game to the community,” we best serve our community here. 

  • We pride ourselves on being good neighbors and stewards of the park, as our previous park investments show – providing funding and the creation of walking trails, artwork, playground, basketball court, picnic shelter, splash park, plaza area, landscaping, and more. 

  • We enjoy being part of a community that sees walkers, joggers, and dogs stop by after using the trails to use the restroom, grab a drink, have a dog treat, etc. in addition, to hosting ice cream socials, neighborhood meetings, boy scout troops, and other community events. “Woods Park did not become a park until Park It at Woods.” – Witherbee Neighbor/Resident

  • Ultimately, FOWT feels Woods Park and Sports Complex is an appropriate place for our plans, which still allow for all of the current park activities and more while addressing our needs at a site that is centrally located to best provide this lifetime sport for the entire community - minimizing our footprint, while maximizing our impact. 

 

Questions? Please reach out to a board member: growwoodstennis@gmail.com
 

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